A senior finance manager in Oracle’s cloud business has complained to a federal court that she was terminated from her job because she refused to go along with accounting principles she considered unlawful.
In a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Svetlana Blackburn says her superiors instructed her “to add millions of dollars in accruals to financial reports, with no concrete or foreseeable billing to support the numbers, an act that Plaintiff warned was improper and suspect accounting.” The former employee is said to have warned her supervisor she would blow the whistle if ordered to continue in the same manner.
Blackburn alleges that upper management was trying to fit "square data into round holes" in a bid to boost the financial reports of the cloud services business, which would be "paraded" before company leaders and investors.
A certified public accountant, Blackburn received a positive performance review in August 2015, but in the following month her supervisors “charted a course that veered from legal, ethical and company standards.” Her employment was terminated within weeks, on Oct. 15, after she “continued to resist and warn of the accounting improprieties,” according to the complaint.
“We don't agree with the allegations and intend to vigorously defend the matter,” said Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger in an email.
Blackburn alleges in her complaint that executives above her went ahead and added accruals on their own, despite her objections. She was told by a supervisor that her statements were “irritating” after she warned about the dangers of a lack of billings, and the history of bad accruals that never resulted in billings. As a result, she came to be viewed as "more of a roadblock than a team player who would blindly generate financial reports using improper bases in order to justify the bottom lines that her superiors demanded to see," according to her complaint.
Blackburn accuses Oracle of unlawful retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which is legislation that aims to prevent corporate accounting fraud and errors. She said her actions were protected under the Act because she resisted and reported conduct that she believed was against the law.
The former employee also claims to be protected under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which protects employees from discrimination after they make disclosures under Sarbanes-Oxley. Blackburn is suing Oracle for punitive damages and a ruling preventing the company from retaliating against other similar objectors, among other measures.